A lot of you probably don’t know this, but I actually went to school for reading and writing in English. When you attend college, you’re selected for a specific “major” that reflects your strongest qualities. People of specific “majors” represent the authorities on said subjects, and as a English major, I’m qualified to tell you that I have not only read a book, but I have thoughts about it that I want to put online!
As an English major, my opinion on the book I read isn’t something to be taken lightly. English majors are kind of like crime scene investigators, and books are sort of like dead bodies. To the untrained eye, a dead body is nothing more than a lifeless boring mass–sometimes they’re scary, sometimes they’re fun to jack off to, but either way, regular people aren’t able to really look at a dead body and understand just what exactly happened there and why. That’s where English majors like me come in. We take pictures with our minds. We dissect and analyze. We collect samples and consider the thought process of the murderer (author). We understand the nuance and beauty of metaphor delicately peppered throughout a work, like little stab marks all over a corpse covered in semen and feces. We’re basically better at reading than everyone else and we smell like death.
Recently I used the power of my degree in English to take a trip the ole le bibliotheque. We learned in college that putting French words in italics creates a certain je ne sais quoi that imbues your work with a nuanced degree of intelligence. Suffice to say, looking and feeling smart is my raison d’etre. Mmm, look at that! Doesn’t that look good? You can almost taste the croissant flakes I’m blowing out of my mouth all over the keyboard as I Photoshop pictures from my trip to Montreal.
Anywhoodle, the library has a fun new section that most certainly is a response to the recent uptick in millennial media saturation. It’s called “Young Adult,” and it’s such a nuanced category one would be wont to assume they were watching Girls when they thought it up. Young Adult perfectly describes people of my age—my generation if you will. We’re lost in the sea of adulthood, not quite grown up, yet not quite adults either. There’s a nuanced tinge to our disillusion, something only we can understand but can’t express–not because we’re inarticulate, but because our disappointment in ourselves is beyond words. It’s nuanced.
I picked up a fascinating little novel titled, Baby-sitters Club Friends Forever: Stacey And The Boyfriend Trap by Ann M. Martin. It’s a delightful little book in the critically acclaimed Baby-sitters Club series, and it’s one of the few Stacey-centric works. While certainly not to be considered Martin’s magnum opus (a title reserved by the great Baby-sitters on Board, according to Goodreads, a website English majors go to for opinions), Boyfriend Trap certainly holds its own when stacked up against some of the other books in the series.
The novel, written over ten years ago, is portentously prescient in regards to social issues that we have only discovered as millennials on Tumblr. Claudia – the only Asian American character in the series, is only featured briefly, and her truncated presence is a clever tip of the hat by Martin to the very serious issue of hashtag not your Asian sidekick. Martin perfectly expresses the conundrum of white guilt when Stacey is passed up for a chance to do the artwork for Ms. Zizmore’s going away party. The contract instead is given to Claudia, and Stacey initially feels angered by this. She then remembers her New Year’s resolution to be a better friend, but more importantly, she remembers her privilege, and checks it.
Throughout the work, we’re taken through a whirlwind of flashbacks. We see all of Stacey’s failed relationships, and how she’s matured as a 13 year old woman into someone that isn’t looking to fill some kind of emotional void that the patriarchy has left her with. She’d like a relationship, but she’s focused on organizing the going away party with Jeremy. This is the kind of dynamic, nuanced feminism that has only existed since Jezebel launched. It’s a feminism that allows women to have it all, but not be stoked about it – but they’re allowed to be stoked about it if they want, and they’re also allowed to not have it all – and be equally stoked about that. It’s something only English majors can pick up on.
The novel culminates with the going away party, which delivers a powerful feminist message. All of Stacey’s ex-boyfriends arrive at the going away party, and when confronted with his girlfriend’s sexual history, not only in anecdotal form, but tangibly here now – where he can see their hands and the look in their eyes when they remember her touch, Jeremy pushes Stacey away. Jeremy see’s Stacey’s independent decisions and takes it as an affront to his masculinity. The way Martin delivers this powerful message about power dynamics in relationships and slut shaming is flawless. I would really recommend this book to every man I know who considers himself an ally.
Aside from the breakup, which Stacey handles with a degree of maturity that seems just a bit off for her age, we have the party itself. The symbolism is lathered on here. Ms. Zizmore, an unmarried, independent woman with an ethnically ambiguous name, is setting off for Texas–a state noted for hating women like Ms. Zizmore. Stacey’s teacher is leaving, and it signifies a transition in Stacey’s life where she has to learn lessons on her own. She’s still a student–but she’s a little bit more on her own. She’s a young adult. She’s a millennial.
At the end of the day, would I recommend this book to a friend? Absolutely. In fact I would recommend every book to everyone. Let’s talk about them, and let’s hear what I have to say. I’m an English major, and I read a book. Remember me as a hero.